Alex Rodriguez, chef-owner of Palomilla Grill
Why he’s Food 50: The second-generation owner has infused new energy into his family’s longtime Cuban restaurant in Flagami.
Alejandro “Alex” Rodriguez, 34, worked as a fry boy at La Carreta in Miami International Airport when he was a teen, and he took over the day-to-day responsibilities of his family’s Palomilla Grill last year. His father, Rafael Rodriguez, opened the restaurant in 1975 as Trianon (his mother renamed it to Palomilla after Rafael’s death in 1999). It’s still the place to get a fix of pounded-thin palomilla sirloin steak with onions and pan-seared potato cubes, or roasted pork tenderloin, or seasoned-beef picadillo, all served with white rice, black beans and sweet plantains. Seafood paella is made to order for those willing to wait about 35 minutes for authenticity.
But Alex Rodriguez’s idea is to also appeal to a younger crowd, not only Cuban Americans, without alienating his base of old-timers. He’s doing this by embracing social media to promote his restaurant, giving the menu design a face-lift, and adding fresh herbs to certain dishes and rethinking others entirely, like his goat cheese croquetas coated in panko crumbs, a favorite of local comfort-food blogger (and 2015 Food 50 winner) Burger Beast.
Where to find him: Palomilla Grill Cuban Cuisine, 6890 W. Flagler St., Miami; 305-261-3424